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Remembering SP4 James T. Davis, USA, KIA in Vietnam
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a425couple
2019-11-28 04:25:26 UTC
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Remembering SP4 James T. Davis, USA, KIA

SP4 James T. Davis, USA, KIA
June 1, 1936 – December 22, 1961
One of the first Americans to be Killed In Action in Vietnam. SP4 Davis
was a direction finding (DF) operator.

On 13 May 1961, the first contingent of Army Security Agency personnel
arrived in South Vietnam (setting up an organization at Tan Son Nhut Air
Base) to provide support to the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group
and help train the South Vietnamese Army. During the early years of
conflict, ASA troops in Vietnam were assigned to the 3rd Radio Research
Unit. Their primary mission was to locate Viet Cong transmitters
operating in the south. This mission was in its early stages when one of
their direction finding (DF) operators, SP4 James T. Davis, was killed
in a Viet Cong ambush on a road outside Saigon. The date of the ambush,
22 December 1961, made Davis the first American soldier to lose his life
during the Vietnam War.

Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of Vietnam
December of 1961 found Specialist James T. Davis of the 3rd Radio
Research Unit hard at work. Since his arrival at Tan Son Nhut Air Base
near Saigon in May, he and the 92 other members of his unit had dealt
with any number of difficult challenges. Life as a U.S. Army
cryptologist was never easy, but the 100-degree temperatures and
constant flooding in the old hangar they called home often made their
task even more difficult.
In the field, the situation was even more demanding. For decades, the
Communist North, led by the resourceful Ho Chi Minh, had battled to
establish an independent and united Vietnam free from foreign influence.
Ho’s forces had met with great success against the Japanese in the 1940s
and the French in the 1950s. By the early 1960s, many feared that if
Indochina fell to the Communists, then the whole of Southeast Asia might
follow. Mao Zedong had once noted that the way to win an unconventional
war was to ensure that your forces had the capacity to “swim among the
people as fish swim in the sea.” Ho’s forces had followed his advice and
through their efforts had been able to overtake portions of the
population of the South.

“Ambitions Unlimited… Fate Unknown…”
The series of events that had brought James T. Davis – his friends
called him “Tom” – to this strange and dangerous land were anything but
typical. In 1958, he had been pursuing his studies at Tennessee
Technological University (TTU) in Cookeville, about 20 miles from his
boyhood home of Livingston. The oldest son of a local pharmacist,
himself a veteran of the European Theatre in WWII, Tom’s childhood
resembled a Norman Rockwell print. When he was not excelling on the
football field for Livingston Academy, Tom spent most of his free time
hunting and fishing in the deep woods that surrounded his hometown. At
some point in his senior year at TTU, he made the decision to end his
academic studies to join the United States Army. After enlisting, he was
sent first to Ft. Jackson for basic training and then to Ft. Devens for
instruction in “direction finding.” In May 1961, he received orders to
join the 3rd Radio Research Unit, Republic of Vietnam. During high
school, Davis had once written that “my ambitions are unlimited, my fate
unknown.” His words would prove to be prophetic.

The 3rd Radio Research Unit
Davis’ unit had a difficult and dangerous job. Since the First World
War, the American Army had utilized direction-finding technology on the
battlefield. Vietnam was no exception to this tradition. The 3rd Radio
Research Unit provided technical advice to South Vietnamese units on
locating enemy signals and provided valuable training and guidance on
ways to get a “fix” on the insurgents’ locations. These Vietnamese PRD
teams, as they were called (they were named after the piece of equipment
used in the operation), hoped to increase the odds of finding the
stealthy and quick-hitting Communist units that were making life
difficult for the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam. But while
direction finding had proved to be a valuable tool in the past, like any
technical process, its success was dependent on any number of external
factors. In Indochina, climate and terrain made the art of direction
finding extremely tricky. In many areas of operation throughout the
world, their mission would have been far less difficult. However, due to
the mountainous landscape and the high levels of humidity in the area,
it Specialist F was difficult for them to conduct their work in a safe
and secure location our Davis with his far from the battlefront. The
cold, hard truth was that, like so many cryptologists radio direction
finder past and present, Davis and the units he worked with had to “get
in close” to be successful.

Ambush at Cau Xang
On the 22nd of December, Specialist Four Davis received orders to lead a
Vietnamese PRD-1 team to an area approximately 12 miles from the base in
an effort to locate a Viet Cong guerilla force operating in the area.
They would move by truck to the area, set up, and in concert with a
similar team, attempt to locate the enemy. Even prior to the mission on
the 22nd, Tom had understood the dangers of his work, noting in a letter
home that “…it looks like the bad guys have gotten the word to start
giving us hell…it could become a bit dangerous.”
Initially, the operation appeared to be routine; however, 10 miles
outside the base, near the old French Garrison of Cau Xang, the hunter
became the hunted. The truck carrying the team hit a
strategically-placed land mine and was forced off the road. The group
immediately came under attack. Davis and his men fought bravely, but
eventually succumbed to enemy fire. A patrolling South Vietnamese Civil
Guard unit quickly responded to the area, but it was too late. Davis and
nine members of his team lay dead. He would be the first American to
lose his life in combat, in what would come to be known as the Vietnam
War. Two weeks later, in tribute to Davis’ service and sacrifice, his
unit’s headquarters in Tan Son Nhut would be named “Davis Station.”

“And Now the Trumpet Summons Us Again”
Even today, the events surrounding the Vietnam War are roundly debated.
But there are certain facts about the conflict that remain indisputable.
One of them is that during this difficult and painful time – a time full
of doubt and controversy – there were thousands of soldiers, sailors,
airmen, and Marines, who, like James Davis, remained above the political
fray and simply went and did their duty for their country.
Davis’ sacrifice clearly demonstrates that those who defend America do
not get to choose when and where they fight. They are given orders and
are duty bound to follow them to the best of their ability. Tom and the
example he set are stark reminders of this solemn duty and of the fact
that the future of our republic rests on the willingness of such men and
women to answer the call to arms in defense of freedom.
To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge
our words that one form of colonial government shall not have passed
away merely to be replaced by a far greater tyranny… Now the trumpet
summons us again… to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year
in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation.
John F. Kennedy
January 20, 1961
SP4 James T. Dave Memorial Wall
a425couple
2019-11-28 16:44:35 UTC
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Remembering SP4 James T. Davis, USA, KIA
 SP4 James T. Davis, USA, KIA
June 1, 1936 – December 22, 1961
One of the first Americans to be Killed In Action in Vietnam.  SP4 Davis
was a direction finding (DF) operator.
On 13 May 1961, the first contingent of Army Security Agency personnel
arrived in South Vietnam (setting up an organization at Tan Son Nhut Air
Base) to provide support to the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group
and help train the South Vietnamese Army. During the early years of
conflict, ASA troops in Vietnam were assigned to the 3rd Radio Research
Unit. Their primary mission was to locate Viet Cong transmitters
operating in the south. This mission was in its early stages when one of
their direction finding (DF) operators, SP4 James T. Davis, was killed
in a Viet Cong ambush on a road outside Saigon. The date of the ambush,
22 December 1961, made Davis the first American soldier to lose his life
during the Vietnam War.
from
https://library.cqpress.com/cqalmanac/document.php?id=cqal75-1213988

1961

May 13—President Kennedy orders 100 specially trained jungle fighters
(Special Forces) to South Vietnam.

Dec. 22—Specialist 4 James Davis of Livingston, Tenn., killed by Viet
Cong; later called by President Johnson “the first American to fall in
defense of our freedom in Vietnam.”
a425couple
2019-11-28 16:51:28 UTC
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Post by a425couple
from
https://stationhypo.com/2016/06/01/remembering-sp4-james-t-davis-usa-kia/
Remembering SP4 James T. Davis, USA, KIA
  SP4 James T. Davis, USA, KIA
June 1, 1936 – December 22, 1961
One of the first Americans to be Killed In Action in Vietnam.  SP4
Davis was a direction finding (DF) operator.
On 13 May 1961, the first contingent of Army Security Agency personnel
arrived in South Vietnam (setting up an organization at Tan Son Nhut
Air Base) to provide support to the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory
Group and help train the South Vietnamese Army. During the early years
of conflict, ASA troops in Vietnam were assigned to the 3rd Radio
Research Unit. Their primary mission was to locate Viet Cong
transmitters operating in the south. This mission was in its early
stages when one of their direction finding (DF) operators, SP4 James
T. Davis, was killed in a Viet Cong ambush on a road outside Saigon.
The date of the ambush, 22 December 1961, made Davis the first
American soldier to lose his life during the Vietnam War.
from
https://library.cqpress.com/cqalmanac/document.php?id=cqal75-1213988
1961
Dec. 22—Specialist 4 James Davis of Livingston, Tenn., killed by Viet
Cong; later called by President Johnson “the first American to fall in
defense of our freedom in Vietnam.”
also
http://www.josephinesjournal.com/tomdavis.htm

Tom Davis Service

The name Tom Davis is well known to many citizens of Livingston and
Overton County. When we hear that name, we automatically associate it
with the title Tom's death brought about ... the first American to die
in combat in Vietnam. On the lower right hand corner of the front page
of the June 21st issue of the Overton County News there was a small
paragraph containing information about a service to be held this past
Saturday on the square in Livingston to honor Tom. The announcement also
stated that members of his unit would be present. Reading that
information brought me to the square that day. Prior to the beginning of
the service, several military bikers arrived. The extent of my knowledge
about this group when I walked on the square was absolutely nothing.
Just a few minutes later, two large buses rolled in. And again, my
knowledge about those riding on the buses was absolutely nothing. I
assumed that both the bikers and those who came in by bus all had
military backgrounds. As the buses unloaded, one of the obvious things
that could be seen about this group was that they all wore identical tee
shirts with the initials "ASA" across the front. Once again I was
clueless, I had no idea what "ASA" stood for.

This photograph, along with others, was sent back home to the Davis
family following Tom's death. The family does not have any information
about those pictured with Tom.

When the service began, Retired Captain Duane Craig who served in the
Vietnam War as a helicopter pilot with the United States Army spoke. He
recalled how many Vietnam veterans were treated upon their return from
service. "We were spit on and called names like 'war mongers' and 'baby
killers.' Upon returning home, the Vietnam veteran found his friends and
neighbors no longer liked him, that they were unable to separate the war
from the warrior." Because of this type of treatment, a veterans
organization called "Vietnam Veterans of America" was chartered in 1979
with the founding principle that "Never Again Shall One Generation of
Veterans Abandon Another." Captain Craig stated "This principle is one
of the reasons today's veterans are held in high esteem."

Gary Spivey, President of the Southeast Asia Army Security Agency
Veterans Association (ASA - the initials on the tee shirts I had no idea
about) also spoke to the group. He described exactly how Tom Davis died,
the details of which will follow. But first, I would like to share some
information from a letter he wrote to the Davis family during Christmas
2004. Many details about Tom's military career are revealed in this
letter that explain much more than just the fact that he was the first
American killed in that war. He has this to say about Tom's early days
in the military:
"After completing basic military training, Tom had been selected to join
the Army Security Agency (ASA), a top secret organization that picked
its recruits from high scorers on a battery of aptitude tests. Tom had
been trained at the ASA school in Fort Devens, Massachusetts, as a Radio
Direction Finding Intercept Operator. Tom's job was to listen for enemy
radio transmissions as he traversed the countryside in a
specially-equipped 3/4 ton truck. When he picked up a signal, he would
plot a line on a map from his location in the direction from which the
signal originated. Another team working the same target nearby would
plot a second line. Where the two lines intersected would show the
location of the enemy transmitter. Tom's unit, the 3rd Radio Research
Unit, had been dispatched to Vietnam in May 1961 by President Kennedy in
one of America's first acts of commitment to the support of South
Vietnam against the Viet Cong communist insurgency supported by North
Vietnam."

The details of Tom's death are described as follows:

"On December 22, 1961, Tom Davis entered into history. He was riding in
the front seat of the truck next to his Vietnamese driver. Nine other
South Vietnamese troops were in the back. As they proceeded on a
provincial highway about 10 miles west of Saigon, their eyes scoured
their surroundings. Enemy activity in the area had been increasing, and
another radio direction finding team had only narrowly escaped a recent
ambush attempt. Tom could not have known, and none of us knew until much
later, that the communist military command in the area had ordered
strong action against the direction finding teams because of their
success in disrupting guerilla operations. Shortly before noon, a
remote-controlled landmine detonated under the tailgate of the truck.
The troops in the back were assaulted by Viet Cong guerillas with rifle
and machine-gun fire and hand grenades as they attempted to escape the
vehicle, which had come to rest in a culvert at the side of the road.
Tom kept his wits, scrambling from the cab. He hurled his satchel,
containing his secret communications codes, into a rice paddy to prevent
them from falling into the hands of the enemy. He pulled his injured
driver into the culvert where the driver concealed himself in the water
beneath the truck. Urging his team to 'run for it,' Tom ran up the
gravel road, turning and firing as he went, drawing enemy fire to
himself and away from his driver and other team members. At a position
about 50 feet in front of the vehicle, he was hit by a bullet that
pierced his skull, killing him instantly. At that moment, he became, in
the words of the President, 'the first American to fall in defense of
our freedom in Vietnam.' Only his driver survived, and from him we know
this story. Two weeks later, Tom was buried at Good Hope cemetery here
in Livingston. The Army Security Agency compound at Tan Son Nhut Air
Base on the outskirts of Saigon was given the name 'Davis Station.'"

The service on the square concluded with participation of the local
James T. Davis Post Memorial Post 5062 through firing of rifles and
playing of taps. The second part of the service was moved on to Good
Hope Cemetery for the dedication of a flagpole placed near Tom's grave
by the Southeast Asia Army Security Agency in memory of their fellow
soldier. After the dedication service at Good Hope, a meal was provided
by the Davis family at the VFW hall in Livingston for the visiting
veterans and their family members. The group concluded the day in
Livingston with a visit to Overton County Historical Museum.

During the afternoon, I had a chance to find out about the military
bikers present for the ceremony. I talked with Retired Army Major Bob
"Bulldog" Ousley, President of Rolling Thunder, TN-1 Chapter, who spent
20 years in service. Major Ousley served 20 months in Vietnam during
1968-1970. Part of the information he shared with me about their
organization is as follows: "Rolling Thunder®, Inc.'s major mission is
to publicize the Prisoners of War and Missing in Action issue; to
educate the public of the fact that many American prisoners of war were
left behind after all past wars; and to help correct the past and to
protect future veterans from being left behind should they become
prisoners of war-missing in action. Their members are committed to
helping American veterans from all wars. This organization, started by
Vietnam Veterans, was incorporated in 1995 and has over 85 chapters
nationwide. Rolling Thunder members generally ride motorcycles, but the
organization is a veterans service organization, not a motorcycle gang
or club. The motorcycles get public attention making it easier for
Rolling Thunder to get their message out. "You Are Not Forgotten" is one
of several mottos the organization has. Rolling Thunder works diligently
to lobby congress to institute legislation and laws that will insure no
political decision or lack of effort will result in a single American
being abandoned in a foreign land. According to statistics Bob Ousley
provided, those missing from World War II alone are 78,708 soldiers.
Rolling Thunder believes that leaving even one American imprisoned on
foreign soil is unconscionable, but to leave thousands is unforgivable.
Currently, Tennessee has four Rolling Thunders chapters - one in Smyrna,
Chattanooga, Knoxville, Johnson City, and later this year, one may be
chartered in Memphis."

The entire day was a very impressive one, but I must say when those two
large buses rolled in on the square, I was concerned that these people
might think the Town of Livingston didn't care very much about our own
hometown young man. The buses were completely filled with what I found
out later to be members of Tom's unit, some of which traveled some as
far as Albuquerque, New Mexico, New York, and many other states as well,
to honor someone most of them didn't even know. I had to wonder why
there were so many more of them than there were of us. I found out later
it had been planned that way. Two years ago, plans were made that during
ASA's annual convention, held yearly in various cities, that the 2006
convention would be held in Nashville, and during that event, a trip to
Livingston would be included. The purpose of the trip was to visit Tom's
hometown and to honor his memory with the service held on the square and
at Good Hope.

Gary Spivey served at Davis Station for three years beginning in 1964.
As a result of the planning for his group's trip to Livingston, a very
special friendship has been formed with the Davis family. Although he
didn't have the opportunity to personally meet Tom, he says, "Through
the Davis family, I have come to know Tom. I have walked the streets of
his hometown, have seen the site of the family drugstore where he worked
as a boy, the hills where he hiked and hunted, and the football stadium
named in his honor by the school where he won his letter as a defensive
halfback and was crowned the Harvest King. I have seen the family home
where he grew up and where he lay in state in January 1962."

On display at the Overton County Historical Museum is a handcrafted
memorial piece placed on Tom's casket during his memorial service in
1962. The very detailed gift made by the Vietnamese soldiers who worked
with Tom required very intense labor. These soldiers went without sleep
in order to finish it in time to be shipped with Tom's body. Prior to
coming home to the Overton County Historical Museum, it was on display
at the Tennessee Museum in Nashville.

Considering how I started that day knowing next to nothing about the
participants of the service to honor Tom, by the end of the day, I had a
new sense of enlightenment and definitely a new appreciation for those
who have served and continue to do so in military service. What they do
and have done on our behalf is so often taken for granted and not fully
appreciated as was emphasized by those who spoke during the ceremony.
Understanding in more depth the meticulous duties involved in Tom's job
in the military, and learning about the events that led up to his death
only strengthened the love and respect we are feel for one of our own.
Members of Tom's unit along with the Davis family, are to be commended
for allowing us to share this very special day.

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